Lost Footsteps
Lost Footsteps
The "Hairy Family" of Mandalay

1880s

The "Hairy Family" of Mandalay

I'm not sure if many people in Myanmar (or outside of Myanmar) are aware of the strange tale of the "Hairy Family" of Mandalay. They were once world-famous. It started with a boy, found in the uplands of Laos, later named Shwe Maung, brought to the Court of Ava by King Bagyidaw. He and his descendents then lived at the royal court, where they were educated and made money by exhibiting themselves to visiting Europeans, until the fall of Mandalay in 1885, when they escaped to the forest for their safety. His daughter (Ma Phon) and grandchildren (Maung Po Set and Ma Me) were then shipped to London and Paris where many competed to hire them as circus freaks. The winning contract was secured by the American showman PT Barnum (later of Barnum and Baily's "Greatest Show on Earth")for $100,000 (worth millions in today's money). Ma Phon died shortly after making it to Washington in 1888 and is apparently buried there. No one knows what happened to her son Maung Po Set and Ma Me. They vanished in America.

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